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African-American Lit

ENGL 281.401
instructor(s):
TR 9-10:30

Audience, both real and imagined, has played an important role in both the reception and the creation of African-American literature since its inception more than two hundred years ago. This is, of course, very much in keeping with the call-and-response structure of a wide range of African-American cultural forms, from the sermon to jazz and rap to political oratory. Taking the question of audience as a point of departure, we will explore a cluster of related issues: how different texts negotiate the relationship between orality and literacy, the urban and the folk, the elite and the popular; how different authors have cultivated tricksterism and/or a DuBoisian double-consciousness in order to address (and appeal to) a variety of literary constituencies; and how African- American literature as a whole has struggled to prove its authenticity in both cultural and literary terms. Possible texts include 18th century criminal confessions, Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Charles Chesnutt's The Conjure Woman, W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Gwendolyn Brooks, James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Amiri Barka's Dutchman, Audre Lorde's Zami, and/or fiction by Terry McMillan and Toni Morrison. Course requirements will include oral presentations, active class participation, journals, film screenings (if necessary), and three 4-6 page papers.